Camp Lejeune: Conditions Linked to Chemicals Found at Rifle Range

Lawsuits and Veterans Administration (VA) claims continue to be filed by service members and their loved ones who have developed physical ailments after being exposed to tainted drinking water at Camp Lejeune. 

As investigators continue to look into this environmental disaster, they learn more information about the chemicals detected in the Camp Lejeune water supply and the various health complications they pose.

Contaminated Drinking Water Found at Camp Lejeune Water Treatment Facilities

The Camp Lejeune training facility in North Carolina has used at least eight water treatment facilities over the years to provide fresh drinking water to residential housing units. These residential areas would house not only Marines and other service members but also their families as well as civilian contractors.

Contaminated groundwater was found at three of the water treatment facilities: Tarawa Terrace, Hadnot Point, and Holcomb Boulevard. While these three facilities showed some of the highest levels of contamination, other plants, including the facility at Rifle Range, were also found to have contaminants in the groundwater.

Some of the chemicals that have been found in the water treatment facilities include:

  • PCE, also known as tetrachloroethylene
  • TCE, or trichloroethylene
  • Vinyl chloride
  • Benzene
  • DCE, also known as translate-1,2-dichloroethylene

These contaminants entered the water supply from a variety of sources, including underground storage tanks that leaked, nearby waste disposal sites, and even waste from a nearby dry cleaning business.

Health Risks of PCE-Contaminated Drinking Water

PCE was one of the substances found at several of the contaminated water treatment facilities around Camp Lejeune. Tetrachloroethylene is a chemical solvent that is used in textile processing, dry cleaning, cleaning metal, and other industrial applications. 

Routine testing of groundwater is necessary to detect whether PCE in the groundwater is exceeding safe levels. 

In addition to contaminated drinking water, you can also be exposed to PCE in the air if you are around dry cleaning businesses or industrial sites where PCE is being used. PCE can also linger in the air if a pool of contaminated water evaporates. 

Exposure to PCE in the air can lead to a variety of neurological symptoms, including headaches, vision troubles, and difficulty with muscle coordination. 

Ingesting PCE in drinking water (as service members and their loved ones at Camp Lejeune may have done) can lead to kidney damage and cancer. PCE has been linked to cancers of the esophagus and cervix as well as non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Dangers of Benzene Exposure in Humans

Benzene is a common chemical that, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, ranks as one of the 20 most common chemicals in terms of production volume. Benzene is used in the manufacture of pesticides, rubbers, detergents, lubricants, and plastics, among other products.

Benzene does not mix well with water, but will instead remain floating on top of the water. It evaporates rather quickly, but its vapor is heavier than air and it can remain in low-lying areas. Some of the immediate consequences of benzene ingestion can include the following:

  • Dizziness and sleepiness
  • Convulsions and tremors
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Upset stomach and vomiting

Ingestion of significant levels of benzene can lead to death in extreme cases.

Over time, long-term exposure to benzene has been linked to anemia and leukemia, a form of cancer that impacts the body’s bone marrow and lymphatic system. 

Health Hazards Posed by TCE

Trichloroethylene, or TCE, is a metal degreaser that is used in the manufacturing of a wide variety of products like wood finishes, stain and paint removers, and adhesives. TCE evaporates quickly when exposed to the air, but it can also penetrate the soil and pollute groundwater if it is spilled. 

As with PCE, random testing is needed to detect unsafe levels of TCE in the groundwater. TCE was found near the Hadnot Point water treatment facility, where 1,400 parts per billion were detected in 1982. The current acceptable limit for TCE in drinking water is five parts per billion.

Cancer Risks Associated with Vinyl Chloride Exposure

Vinyl chloride is an essential ingredient in the manufacture of PVC as well as refrigerants and aerosols. Exposure to vinyl chloride comes mainly through inhalation, although it can also dissolve in liquids like drinking water. 

If a water supply is contaminated with vinyl chloride, the chemical can enter the home through the water line and dissipate into the air when water is used for showering, cooking, or other applications.

Long-term exposure to vinyl chloride has been linked to an increased risk of developing hepatic angiosarcoma, a rare type of liver cancer characterized by jaundice, weight loss, fatigue, and abdominal pain. Other forms of cancer associated with vinyl chloride exposure include liver cancer, brain cancer, lung cancer, and leukemia.

Individuals at the Greatest Risk of Developing Physical Complications

Individuals who lived or worked at Camp Lejeune for at least 30 days between August 1, 1953, and December 31, 1987, may have been exposed to toxic drinking water from the Rifle Range facility. This includes service members stationed at Camp Lejeune, family members of veterans who lived on base, or others who worked on base and were exposed to the drinking water.

Although Hadnot Point, Tarawa Terrace, and Holcomb Boulevard were some of the major facilities in which contaminated water was found, other facilities like Rifle Range can not be ruled out as potential sources of contaminated drinking water. 

What is more, it was not uncommon for these facilities to supply other areas of the base when the primary supply facility was under repair.

What to Do if You Believe You Have Been Exposed to Toxic Drinking Water

If you believe you may meet the eligibility requirements to file a Camp Lejeune claim, it is crucial that you speak with an experienced and qualified mass tort lawyer as soon as possible. The time period within which you can file a claim is closing soon, and having an attorney’s assistance can help you get your claim filed swiftly.

Use our online form to the right to check your eligibility and get matched with a knowledgeable attorney who can evaluate your case further and help you take action.

2 Cited Research Articles

Our writers follow rigorous sourcing guidelines and cite only trustworthy sources of information, including peer-reviewed journals, court records, academic organizations, highly regarded nonprofit organizations, government reports and interviews with qualified experts.

  1. 1.

    “Facts About Benzene,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,

  2. 2.

    “Vinyl Chloride,” National Cancer Institute, The National Institutes of Health,

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